The Boston Red Sox made their presence known at the Winter Meetings. After missing out on signing former ace Jon Lester, Ben Cherington went to work completely retooling the Red Sox starting rotation.
The first move post-Lester was to trade rookies Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to the Arizona Diamondbacks for innings-eater Wade Miley. At first, this move seemed puzzling, with De La Rosa alone looking like he could be headed for a better career than Miley. RDLR and Webster were mostly mainstays in the Red Sox rotation down the stretch in 2014, but neither were particularly dazzling. De La Rosa had moments of greatness, but he was far from consistent. A drop in velocity from 97 down to 93 as the season wore on wasn’t a good sign, either.
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Webster, on the other hand, has proven himself a very strong pitcher in triple-A, but has yet to put it together at the major league level. Webster was inconsistent, but often only looked good the first time through the order. With that makeup, and a general lack of intensity, Webster seems destined for the bullpen. With only three pitches in his repertoire, De La Rosa seemed the same.
In Miley, the Red Sox get a pitcher with a history of throwing a lot of innings. Miley has averaged 199 innings over the last three seasons. While Miley is not a strikeout pitcher and doesn’t have top of the rotation stuff, he should slot in as a solid number three starter. Miley is also under team control through 2018, meaning the Red Sox still have him for a few years, all of which will be during his prime (he is 28).
Next, Cherington pulled off perhaps his best move of the offseason, trading possibly malcontent Yoenis Cespedes to the Detroit Tigers for breakout pitcher Rick Porcello. Hidden behind studs like Justin Verlander, David Price and Max Scherzer, Porcello had the best year his career in 2014. The tall righty had career bests in wins (15), innings pitched (204.2), WHIP (1.23) and ERA (3.43), the last of which dropped almost a full point.
Since his sophomore season, Porcello’s ERA has dropped each year, with the sinker-baller breaking out at age 25. Porcello is in his prime, or about to enter it, and is still in his last year of arbitration eligibility, meaning he is under team control for at least two more years. Porcello doesn’t currently project as an ace, but he could emerge as one. If Miley is third in the Red Sox rotation, Porcello is likely second.
The trade also helped, but did not yet solve, the Red Sox outfielder problem. The Red Sox still have far too many outfielders, but with Cespedes gone, the place in the lineup for Mookie Betts seems to have been figured out. Now, they must figure out what to do with Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig, as it seems the Red Sox should only have space for one of them, maybe two.
Cherington returned to a somewhat puzzling move with the Red Sox last major deal of the week, signing Justin Masterson to a one-year, $9 million deal. Masterson had a worse than average year in 2014, not approaching 200 innings for the first time since becoming a full-fledged starter. Masterson, who came up in the Red Sox system, is another sinker-ball pitcher, meaning the Red Sox have bought into their defensive strength.
While the Masterson signing may not be the most flashy move the Red Sox made, it does fit into a low-risk, high-reward concept. If Masterson doesn’t recover from his bad 2014, he can be moved to the bullpen, a place the Red Sox deemed him headed before trading him to Cleveland in 2009. If he does recover, he’s at worst their fifth starter, with anything better than that being gravy.
In all, the Red Sox rotation is vastly improved over where it was a week ago, even without signing Lester. In fact, those three pitchers combined will make just over what Lester will make alone with the Chicago Cubs each year.
Better yet, Cherington & Co. aren’t done, with the thought being they will acquire a top of the rotation starter before spring training. Whether that is done by trading for Cole Hamels, signing James Shields or something else entirely, is yet to be determined, but given the pace of this last week, don’t be surprised if you find out the Red Sox next move sooner rather than later.